Maui is a county of Hawaii that comprises four islands – the titular Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Molokini. It’s renowned not only for its crystal-clear waters and stunning underwater topography, but also the sheer variety of marine fauna that you might encounter on a dive in its waters. Pilot whales, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, dolphins, false killer whales – all can be observed on a dive in the waters of Maui.
Maui is also a great spot for novice divers. Due to its high visibility and calm, clear waters, it’s the perfect place for newbies to take their time getting used to diving.
Here is a comprehensive guide for scuba diving in Maui including tips on best dive sites and dive shops. And of course, Maui is also a great place for snorkeling.
What Kind of Sea Life Can You See in Maui?
The waters of Hawaii are home to some of the most beautiful and unique marine fauna in the world. Divers who travel to Maui, in particular, are in for a treat.
Maui is renowned, in particular, for its dazzling array of tropical fish. When scuba diving in Maui, divers can frequently see trumpet fish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, parrot fish, and the Hawaiian state animal, the reef triggerfish.
Those looking for larger animals will be thrilled by such sights as spotted eagle rays, manta rays, white tip reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, and the rare monk seals. But it’s the scalloped hammerhead sharks that are the real stars of the show, and if you go to the right spot, you can spot them in huge schools!
One of the best experiences that any diver can have, however, is listening to the song of the humpback whales – in fact, you may even encounter one when scuba diving in Maui if you’re extremely lucky!
Let’s take a look at the best dive spots in Maui.
Best Places for Diving and Dive Sites in Maui
Five Caves, Makena Landing
One of the most unique dive sites in Maui, Five Caves (AKA ‘Five Graves’) is located in the open ocean just off Nahuna Point and features a labyrinth of grottoes and shelves for the intrepid diver to explore. All these nooks and crannies make for great hiding/resting places for a variety of wildlife, and you’re bound to run into a colorful assortment of sea life while diving this singular spot. This makes Five Caves one of the most interesting spots when scuba diving in Maui.
Another thing to note at Five Caves is the extraordinary clearness. With visibility up to about 18 meters, divers will miss nothing going on in this captivating spot.
Although Five Caves doesn’t get any deeper than about 12 meters, the area is riddled with caves. Novice divers will be fine in the open water, but only advanced divers with appropriate training should think about going into the caves.
There are plenty of weird and wonderful sea creatures to spot at Five Caves. Sea turtles, nudibranchs, spotted eagle rays, butterflyfish, eels and the occasional manta ray can all be seen here. In one of the caves (called, appropriately, Shark Cave) you can usually see 4-5 whitetip reef sharks napping.
The Back Wall, Molokini
One of – if not the most – dramatic dive sites in Maui, the Back Wall is a crescent-shaped volcanic crater off the coast of South Maui that bottoms out at a whopping 90 meters.
Because the crater is made out of rock and the seabed is so far down, the waters around the Back Wall are exceptionally clear – visibility is generally an astounding 40-50 meters – and the abundant sea life located around the crater means that no matter how many times you’ve dived it, you’ll always see something new.
Because of the depth of the dive site, it’s not possible for boats to moor there, and so the Back Wall can only be experienced as a drift dive (meaning that your boat will not be waiting in a fixed place for you). This, coupled with the depth, means that the Back Wall is only really suitable for experienced divers. If you want to go deeper than 40m, you need technical diver training and go into deco – please do not attempt this without training.
You can see over 260 species of marine life at the Back Wall, and owing to the fact that the dive site faces out into the deeper ocean, you’ll have a shot at seeing some larger pelagic species. Grey reef sharks can be quite often seen getting their teeth clean, and the rare blue dragon nudibranch makes its home there.
Fish Rain, Molokai
Another dive site you shouldn’t miss when scuba diving in Maui is Fish Rain. The dive sites around the island of Molokai are particularly notable for the massive schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks that can be found here, and make for an excellent diving draw.
In addition to the schools of hammerheads, shoals of fish are found here in abundance (hence the name of ‘Fish Rain’). The untouched coral reef makes for a beautiful sight even before considering the beauteous fauna that makes its home here, and looking away from the reef into the vast blue expanse, you may be treated to the sight of some other large oceanic species.
The site is unsuitable for mooring, and so is a drift dive. This makes it a dive suited to more experienced divers.
In addition to the aforementioned scalloped hammerheads, there is a veritable bounty of marine sea life to be found at Fish Rain. Lucky divers may see octopuses and nudibranchs (including, possibly, blue dragon nudibranchs) along the reef, while those looking out into the ocean could possibly see Galapagos sharks and gargantuan barracudas reaching as long as 2.5 meters.
Located just offshore from the island of Lanai, the Lanai Cathedrals are frequently described as a ‘bucket list’ dive for anybody serious about the sport. Underwater volcanic activity has left a dizzying array of labyrinthine tunnels and caverns, many of which have fractured ceilings that allows the sunlight to spill through in spectacular displays.
Of particular note is the huge ‘chandelier’ that hangs from the ceiling in one room (made, in fact, of coral) and the ‘shotgun’, an exit from one of the caves that propels divers out with a rush of speed.
Less renowned for its fauna than for its underwater topography, Lanai Cathedrals nevertheless has its fair share of sea life; sharks, lobster, turtles and the indigenous bandit angelfish can all be seen here.
Carthaginian II Shipwreck
A short boat ride away from the town of Lahaina on Maui Island, the Carthaginian II is a sailing boat with a steel hull that dates all the way back to 1920. It was transformed into a floating whaling museum in 1973, and in 2005 it was deliberately sunk in order to create an artificial reef.
The wreck sits at a depth of about 30 meters, making it a challenging dive suited to advanced divers only. Those who make the dive, however, have a treat in store with the semi-penetrable wreck. There are numerous species who make their home all along the deck and hull, and schools of fish weave in and out of the lichen-encrusted wreck.
Whitetips are commonly spotted around the wreck, and if you’re fortunate you may spot pink scorpionfish. Nudibranchs and frogfish can be found all along the hull, and eagle rays can frequently be found in the vicinity.
Also located in Lahaina, Mala Wharf is not only suitable for divers of all skill levels and experience, it’s also home to some of the best scuba diving in Maui.
The Mala Wharf was a steel-reinforced concrete wharf that was originally built as a place for steamships to dock and load/unload passengers and cargo. However, it soon became apparent that the waters were far too rough for this, and instead the wharf was used as a place for smaller vessels to dock. The wharf was also used often in WW2 as a convenient place for US soldiers to disembark for shore leave in the nearby town of Lahaina.
Disaster struck in 1992, when Hurricane Iniki slammed the island and tore the wharf apart. The majority of it sunk to the sea floor, and it now makes an excellent home for local sea life – as well as a wonderful dive site.
The collapsed section of the wharf sits at about 12 meters, making this an easy dive even for novice divers. The concrete slabs that made up the wharf have made excellent surfaces for coral, and the crevices under and between them have created great hiding places for nocturnal predators.
Mala Wharf is great for novice divers because it gives them a chance to see some of Hawaii’s finest sea life. Green sea turtles, whitetip reef sharks and frogfish can all be seen in numbers here.
Ulua Beach, Wailea, Maui
Another great dive site for novices, this 12-meter dive site can easily be accessed directly from the beach and its relatively shallow depth makes it a fairly straightforward dive.
There are two reefs located at Ulua Beach; the second one, which is a little further out, is much more rewarding in terms of the sea life that divers can see.
As it’s relatively shallow at Ulua Beach, you’re not going to see anything too big or exciting. Neverthless, the coral hides frogfish, scorpionfish and a few species of eels.
Airport Beach is another great site for beginner divers, thanks to its easy point of entry. It’s easily accessible right from the shore, and you can see its amazing coral reef right from the shore before you even set foot in the water.
There are two reefs here – the inner and the outer one. The inner one is close to the beach and goes down to a distance of about 6 meters before you hit another sandbar.
It’s the outer reef that’s the more exciting of the two. Beginning at about 9 meters deep and going to depths of around 13 meters, this vast reef is still suitable for novice divers and offers some amazing sights. The water is, as is standard, very clear, and divers can expect visibility up to about 30 meters on good days (though, on typical days, you can expect visibility of about 15 meters).
Surprisingly, given the frequency of human interlopers into this area, Airport Beach has a huge population of marine life for divers to take in. Expect to see moray eels, green sea turtles, octopuses, huge schools of colorful tropical fish, and much more. In fact, the area is home to a handful of extremely rare hawksbill turtles, which are little-seen at any other dive site. It’s quite simply the perfect place for beginner divers to explore Hawaii’s native sea life.
Honolua Bay is located in a marine life conservation district, which means you’re all but guaranteed to see some great marine life when diving in the area.
The visibility close the beach (which is private property – get permission if accessing the bay from the shore) isn’t great, and so it’s necessary for divers to go a little further out to ensure good visibility (as well a little more depth).
Once out into the bay a little, divers will be stunned by the colorful coral and the staggering array of marine life present. Due to the fact that the area is, as mentioned, a marine life conservation district, the sea floor is in pristine condition, and so it’s a great place to see the untouched marine wilderness of the islands.
Trumpet fish, sea turtles, moray eels, octopuses and parrot fish can all be seen darting in and out of the beautiful coral formations. So while this may be a little less easy to access, it is definitely a spot you shouldn’t miss when scuba diving in Maui.
Best Dive Shops in Maui
Given that it’s home to no small number of spectacular dive sites, Maui naturally has plenty of dive shops to choose from. But which ones are the best? Let’s take a look at the best dive shops for fantastic diving in Maui.
Maui Dreams Dive Co.
Maui Dreams opened in 1999 and, 23 years later, is one of the best dive shops in Maui. They offer a broad array of courses and dive opportunities, from PADI Open Water certification to Maui night dives, and they are fully invested in the conservation of Hawaii’s waters with their heavy involvement in local conservation efforts.
Maui Dreams sells and rents any scuba gear that you could possibly need, and they also offer full servicing of your scuba gear onsite. Their guided tours are highly regarded by both locals and tourists alike, and the company takes divers to some of the finest dive sites in Maui. Among the highlights of their dives is the Molokini Crater site, with options for both beginner and advanced divers alike.
Located in the town of the same name, Lahaina Divers prides itself on offering more dive sites than any other dive shop in Maui. Its west Maui base of operations means that it covers all of the biggest dive sites in the region: the Molokini Crater, Lanai Cathedral, Fish Rain, Wreck of the Carthaginian and much more are all covered by Lahaina Divers.
The dive shop offers full servicing of your scuba gear, and those without their own may rent or buy from the shop. Lahaina Divers is also fully beginner-friendly, but also offers more challenging dives to those with a few under their belt.
In2Scuba Diving Maui Dive Co.
This dive shop’s name may be a mouthful, but their facilities, courses and gear are spot on, and they offer a great array of dive sites and courses.
In2Scuba is a great budget option for those watching their pennies when scuba diving in Maui; a quick introductory dive, for instance, costs a mere $125! Its location in Lahaina makes it, like Lahaina Divers, a great staging point for all the exciting dive spots to be found off the west coast of Maui.
In2Scuba is particularly renowned for the knowledge and patience of their dive masters, who do a great job with younger learners and with complete novices who have no experience with the ocean at all. No matter your skill level, you’re in good hands with In2Scuba.
Scuba Luv Maui
Located a stone’s throw away from Ulua Beach, Scuba Luv Maui is a great choice for those who are a little further afield from Lahaina. As previously stated, Ulua Beach is a great option for novice divers, making Scuba Luv one of the best options for those looking to dive that particular spot.
Scuba Luv also brand themselves as an ‘island-wide’ dive operator, however, making them a fantastic choice for those looking for dives elsewhere. The company offers easy and straightforward access the west Maui dive sites of Molokini Crater, Lanai Cathedral and Fish Rain, and it’s also possible to dive at the popular Makena Five Caves dive site.
Black Rock Scuba
Located a little further north compared to the bulk of Lahaina dive shops, Black Rock Scuba is connected to the nearby Sheraton Resort and makes for a great option for families staying there (or in its vicinity).
Black Rock offers Open Water Certification from its dive shop, and the nearby Black Rock dive site makes it a fantastic option for beginner divers (or for those who have beginner divers in their party). If you’re on a tighter schedule, it’s possible to do a PADI Discover Scuba course, which takes a mere 3 hours and will have even complete beginners exploring the ocean up to depths of 9 meters.
Located in Lahaina, Island Scuba specializes in shore dives but also offers beginner and advanced courses. Beginners can dive right off the beach at Lahaina, but the dive shop also takes their divers further afield to places like Makena Five Caves, Turtle Reef and Black Rock.
Island Scuba also offers a Discover Scuba course, which will have novices in the water after a quick 1.5-hour training session. For those who want to get trained and get in the water fast, there really is nothing else like it.
How Much Can I Expect to Pay for Scuba Diving in Maui?
Prices do, of course, vary from operator to operator, and it depends what kind of dive you sign up for. Nevertheless, here is a (very general) guide to scuba diving prices in Maui:
All prices are in USD and are approximate.
- Introductory dive plus training: $200
- One-tank shore dive: $150
- Two-tank boat dive: $220
- One-tank night dive: $170
- Private Boat Charter (6 hours): $1500
Diving in Maui is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that cannot be missed, and any diver serious about the sport owes it to themselves to make it there at least once in their lives. From the stunning vertical drop of the Molokini Crater Backwall to the teeming schools of hammerheads at Fish Rain, there’s no end to the scuba diving adventures you can have in Maui!